Tonight the Suns find themselves in the Midwest, taking on the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse in a match up against the 12 and 25 Indiana Pacers. This is a game the Suns in theory shouldn't have too much trouble with. But...We know our Phoenix Suns don't we? Every game is a challenge and no opponent can be taken lightly.
Have you heard of this Danny Granger kid?. He's good. Very good. The 4 year pro from New Mexico is averaging 24.1 points per game and grabbing nearly 6 rebounds a night as well. Granger has scored in double figures in every regular season game he has played in this season. He currently ranks 3rd in Eastern Conference scoring and is 6th in steals per game
Remember when he did this to the Suns last year?
OK, enough about Granger, we know he is a star, so what else do the Pacers have going?
Well, they're currently 12-25, 16.5 games behind the Cavaliers. They're currently coming off of a victory against the Raptors. Prior to the victory though, the Pacers were trounced by the Knicks, and lost at Minnesota and Oklahoma City. Oh, and they managed to knock of Orlando at Conseco Fieldhouse.
While the Magic victory may have been sweet, these Pacers have had to swallow another season of futility, stringing together streaks of 4, 6, and 8 losses this year. They are considered sellers as the trade deadline approaches and were evidently reported to have been offered Al Jefferson for Granger, and flatly refused.
To assist with this preview I enlisted the help of Tom over at Indy Cornrows for a little Q&A. Check out what he has to say:
W: What has been the biggest disappointment this year for the Pacers (besides the losing record), what has been the biggest surprise?
T: The biggest surprise has been how the team has lost games this year. Last year, while the record wasn't much better than the current record, most of the games were exciting and came down to the last possession. While the defense was lacking last year, there was a great spirit to the team, some fight that made them fun to watch. This year the defense is still a problem but the effort has been horrible in far too many games. Injuries have been an issue as well. While all teams deal with injuries, the Pacers at full health have a slim margin for error, so playing so many games without key players eventually takes its toll on this team.
W: Danny Granger is obviously a star in this league. Talk a little about what he means to the Pacers and how they plan to build around him.
T: Granger has been an All-Star on and off the court for the Pacers and pushed as the face of the franchise over the past couple of years. He has struggled this year with a foot problem that was recently taken care of, so his numbers are down, but his offense should round into shape soon. Granger has struggled defensively and seems to require some prodding to get fired up enough to go after opponents at both ends of the court. On Monday, he got into it with Sonny Weems of Toronto and for some reason that lit the fire and he was a beast the rest of the game. For the future, Granger could use and offensive running mate because I'm still not sure Danny is a bona-fide number one option for a successful team. If he could share those duties with another high-level player, the team might be better off.
W: Most talk about the Pacers these days is about who they are going to trade come trade deadline time. Who do you anticipate going? What are your biggest needs?
T: The most likely trade candidates for the Pacer are Troy Murphy and T.J. Ford. There's been a lot of rumors involving Jeff Foster, but he has been sidelined by a bad back for a few weeks and there is no sign it is improving, so can't imagine there's much of a market for his until he can actually, you know, play. Murphy and Ford both have big contracts and another year remaining on each deal. Murphy has put up some good numbers and would make sense going to Cleveland to help stretch the floor with his three-point shooting ability.
As for the needs, a true, number one point guard would be nice, but talent at every position is needed. More importantly expiring contracts and draft picks would be welcomed. There are five large contracts (Murph, Ford, Dunleavy, Foster, Tinsley) that expire after next season, so building up assets or dealing any of those players will help the team truly rebuild in the summer of 2011.
W: What thoughts do you have on Roy Hibbert and how he may pose a problem for the Suns with his size and inside presence?
T: Roy Hibbert has made some nice strides in his second year, really improving his offensive post game. There are many times when the Pacers would be better off slowing things down and running some plays through Roy in the post, which may be a good option tonight. Foul trouble remains an issue for Hibbert at times so his game has been on a bit of a roller coaster. Also, he seems to play much better when not on the court with Troy Murphy. Since Murph's return last week his production has gone down a tick.
W: What other youngsters are you all high on: Hansborough, Rush, Price, McRoberts?
T: A.J. Price has emerged recently, finally getting some real minutes since Jim O'Brien gave him a shot over T.J. Ford. The rookie isn't spectacular but instead real solid and comfortable on the floor. In the past two games, he's really raised in level of play in the fourth quarter of tight games, so I expect to see more of Price all season.
Hansbrough has struggled to stay on the court having dealt with a pre-season shin issue and then recently an inner ear infection that is still bothering him. He's fun to watch off the bench, as bodies always seem to hit the floor when he's around. His shot has been a bit streaky but he's been able to get to the line more than most thought he would.
W: Do you have any predictions for tonight's matchup?
T: As for a prediction, anything is possible with the Pacers. They lost by 43 points to the New York Knicks but have beaten the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic. I'm just hoping Amar'e Stoudemire doesn't collect his third straight season-high game at the Fieldhouse tonight.
The Pacers sound a bit like the Suns: defensively challenged, inconsistent effort, hampered by injuries to some key players. I expect the Suns to have forgotten about the near debacle against the Bucks and play a solid game tonight. Perhaps Amare Stoudemire will recall his last performance in Indiana and have a strong game. I expect Nash to be Nash but limit his recent trend of excessive turnovers. I also expect to see some Robin Lopez to slow The Roy Hibbert effect, and well...Expectations are kind of pointless, they set one up for disappointment. Lets just get a win and get on with it, no?
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[Note by Phoenix Stan, 01/13/10 1:43 PM MST ]
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